Calochortus--TOW--High Elevation Species

Jane McGary
Wed, 10 Nov 2004 09:42:00 PST
After reading Diana's excellent summary of subalpine and inland Calochortus 
species, I'm somewhat amazed that I've been able to grow any of them. My 
climate, southeast of Portland, Oregon, at 1600 feet/500m elevation in the 
Cascades foothills, is not particularly cold: most winters it doesn't go 
below 15 F/-8 C, though about one winter in four is colder. I have 
everything from C. catalinae (southern California coastal) to C. bruneaunis 
in the same frame, treated the same way, so perhaps these inland species 
are more adaptable than we may think -- as long as some climate control can 
be maintained, here consisting of limiting overhead moisture (moisture 
rising from the soil beneath is constant in winter, and unavoidable in my 
system). Some specific comments on Diana's notes:

>Calochortus leichtlinii  - one of the more vigorous species I grow.

Calochortus bruneaunis  ---  This species occurs mainly in the mountain
>ranges of the Great Basin, growing in very dry, cold conditions with very
>high light intensity.

It doesn't get any of that here, but it has been flowering faithfully, 
rather late in the season, for 6 or 7 years. I don't think it's suffering 
in the typical low light of a western Oregon winter, since the stems remain 
upright. It's definitely the happiest Rocky Mountain/Great Basin species I 

Calochortus excavatus  ---  This lovely species superficially resembles
>both C. leichtlinii and C. bruneaunis, and comes from a very restricted
>area on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada in its southern end, around
>Bishop and the Owens Valley.  This, too, comes from very harsh desert
>conditions with cold winters.

I was surprised when C. excavatus flowered here last spring, probably 7 
years frow sowing. It does not seem vigorous but has survived. This gives 
me hope for C. kennedyi and C. striatus, now present here as 3-year-old 

>Calochortus subalpinus  ---  This species is found in mountain meadow
>habitats in the Cascade mountains of Oregon and Washington, where, unlike
>the high altitude Mariposas, it occupies a range that receives very heavy
>rainfall which occurs mostly in winter, but it is also exposed to summer

Actually, winter precipitation where this species grows is mostly in the 
form of (very deep) snow. I have not seen it below the usual winter snow 
line (i.e., where continuous snow cover begins) It's saturated in spring 
after snowmelt, and brief summer thunderstorms. The soils where it grows 
are volcanic and, where I've seen it, extremely rocky and well drained. 
I've never been able to germinate the seed of this or of another nearly 
local plant, C. macrocarpus. Good thing I can drive for an hour or so and 
see them in the wild!

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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